Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination

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Thirty-five years into his research among the descendants of rebel slaves in the South American rain forest, anthropologist Richard Price encountered Tooy, a priest/philosopher/healer who crosses boundaries between centuries, continents, the visible and invisible, and the worlds of the living and the dead. Travels with Tooy brings together Price's ethnographic and archival research and Tooy's teachings, songs, stories, and secret languages to explore how Africans in the Americas have created marvelous new worlds of the imagination.

About the Author:
Richard Price is the Duane A. and Virginia S. Dittman Professor of American Studies, Anthropology, and History at the College of William and Mary

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Editorial Reviews

It's not the bony skeleton of an anthropology-of-religion text I seek, but the well-muscled and all-enveloping immersion of an ethnography. One of the best is Richard Price's Travels with Tooy. . . . The book glows with knowledge.

— Barbara J. King

George Lamming
“Richard Price has had a long and torrential romance with the Saramaka Maroons of Suriname, exploring them and himself through a harvest of mythologies that dissolve all boundaries of time and geographical location. With Tooy as guide and mentor, across three centuries of African exile and resettlement in the Americas, we revisit the recent or forgotten spaces of Price’s near forty years of patient, scholarly research. It is an astonishing performance, rendering these treasures of anthropological materials in a narrative style as lucid and cordial as the best contemporary fiction.”
Stephan Palmie
“A tour de force—a tightly argued, incisive contribution to the newly rekindled debate about the role of Africa in the history and social imaginary of African American societies. A major achievement.”
John Collins
“True ethnographic magic. Beautifully written and theoretically sophisticated, it is a model of politically engaged historical ethnography and sustained transcultural dialogue.”
Victor Turner Prize
2008 Victor Turner Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology
Bookslut - Barbara J. King
"It's not the bony skeleton of an anthropology-of-religion text I seek, but the well-muscled and all-enveloping immersion of an ethnography. One of the best is Richard Price's Travels with Tooy. . . . The book glows with knowledge."
Geertz Prize
Winner of the 2009 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion


Lewis Award
Winner of the 2009 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Memorial Award for Caribbean Scholarship
Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
"Yet again we benefit from Richard Price's patient and passionate commitment to the Maroons in general and the Saramak tribe in particular. Price's anthropological imaginaire and his extraordinary eloquence have woven the field notes and transcripts from differing geographic and temporal contexts into an absorbing travelogue."
"Anthropologists wait a lifetime for an informant like Tooy who possesses much knowledge and is willing to share it. This work constitutes Price's most complete synthesis of Saramaka worldview to date, and serves as an enduring testament to over 30 years of painstaking, diligent, and innovative research. . . . This is a great book! Persistent readers will be amply rewarded."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226680583
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2007
  • Pages: 452
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Price

Richard Price is the Duane A. and Virginia S. Dittman Professor of American Studies, Anthropology, and History at the College of William and Mary. He is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the award-winning Alabi’s World.


In a 1981 essay he wrote for The New York Times entitled "The Fonzie of Literature," Bronx-born Richard Price sums up the origin of his rep as a streetwise scribe:

"I doubt that if I had written about the suburbs I would have attracted nearly as much attention. I found most interviewers and reviewers more than willing to romanticize my background, to make it sound like I had come out of Hell's Kitchen or an Odyssey House. I spent three hours being interviewed by People magazine, insisting that I was not Piri Thomas or Claude Brown, I was a middle-class Jewish kid who went to three colleges. But when the issue hit the stands, the leadoff of the one-paragraph squib was, 'Richard Price comes from the slum-stricken streets and paved playgrounds of the Bronx.'"

So while he may not be the hardened thug that critics seem to want to believe he is, his string of bestselling novels and hit screenplays are filled with enough urban wit and grit to garner him commercial and critical—if not street—cred.

After graduating from Cornell in 1971, Price broke out of the Bronx with The Wanderers in 1974, when he was 24 and in the process of earning an M.F.A. from Columbia. A series of hard-boiled vignettes about a teenage gang coming up in the 1960s that Price scribbled in his spare time, the collection was whisked off to a literary agent by the head of Columbia's writing program, and Price's debut found a publisher. In 1979, Orion released a major motion picture based on the book. A sort of "anti-Grease," The Wanderers noticeably lacked the nostalgic bubblegum bounce of other coming-of-age novels and flicks of its day, and touched off Price's reputation for being unafraid to expose the dark side of Americana.

Two more acclaimed novels would follow—I>Bloodbrothers (1976) and Ladies' Man (1978)—but soon an out-of-control cocaine habit plunged Price into a creative and personal abyss. "I wasn't even that big of a doper," he recalled to "I was definitely bush league. But enough that it sort of preoccupied me for three years."

Hollywood proved to be the sunny savior Price needed to help him climb out of the funk. By the mid-'80s, he had become a top screenwriter with a roster of hits to his credit, including the The Color of Money (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award), Sea of Love, Ransom, and Mad Dog and Glory. "[Screenwriting] kept me in the writing game, and it also showed me I was able to write about things that were not connected to my autobiography," he told Salon.

In 1994, Price returned to fiction with the novel Clockers—a gritty depiction of crack trafficking in the fictional city of Dempsy, New Jersey, a Dantean hell of crime and urban blight. (Adapted into a film by Spike Lee, Clockers would earn Price another Academy Award nomination for screenwriting.) Since then, he has revisited Dempsy in blockbusters like Freedomland and Samaritan, garnering praise for his unblinkered view of inner-city life and his pitch-perfect ear for street talk. A writer's writer, Price counts among his many admirers such distinguished novelists as Russell Banks, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Elmore Leonard, and Stephen King. But in a 2003 interview, he confessed that the greatest validation he ever received came from his teenage daughter who read Samaritan and told him he was "really good!" Says Price, "Of course I want The New York Times to sing my praises, but she's my kid."

Good To Know

Price lives in New York City with his wife, downtown artist Judy Hudson, and their two daughters.

The inspiration for his novel Freedomland came from the infamous case of Susan Smith—a woman who admitted to murdering her own children after initially reporting a fictional carjacking.

A former cocaine addict, Price occasionally volunteers his time to speak about the dangers of drugs to high school students.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bronx, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1971; M.F.A., Columbia University

Table of Contents

Prelude: 01142007     vii
Martinique: 01012000     1
The Soldier's Charm: 0000800     6
Sea Gods: 00000000     9
Dungulali-Obia: 00000000     15
The Beach at Cock's Crow: 04092000     23
Night of the Cats: 06212000     29
End of the Road: 06202000     32
Tooy Possessed: 2000/2006     41
Enstoolment: 06302001     48
Mother Africa: 1690/1712     51
New World Beginnings: 1712     55
The Pink House: 05081986/06071997     57
Gweyunga, the Rain Priest: 1690/1754     60
Antama at War: 01201753     63
The Soldier's Tale: 10051939     66
Thunder Axes: 00000000     80
Master of the House: 06222000     82
Storm Clouds: 07082001     91
Sex, Magic, and Murder: 06212001/1754     94
Friction: 05242000/07062004     100
Sangono mi toala!: 1760/1763     107
The Namesake: 1848/1931     112
Frenchwoman's Revenge: 1920/2005     127
Tampaki: 1900/2005     133
Palimpsests: 1604/1837/1841/1863/2001     146
Antama the Obia-Man: 1771/1800     150
Chronology: 1933/1970     159
My First-Time Museum: 1690/2007     172
The Trial: 02202002     177
Grounds for Appeal?: 02202002/03012002     192
The Prison: 02202002/06022003     200
The Wetlands at Kaw: 07152004     206
Tembai's Village: 1981/05282005     216
Fleeing Trumps Standing: 04182005/05302005     226
Politics: 04182005/05302005     237
Tooy Teaching I-Mostly Luangu and Pumbu: 04182005/05302005     245
Tooy Teaching II-Mostly Papa: 04182005/05302005     248
Tooy Teaching III-Komanti, Wenti, and More: 04182005/05302005     260
Dunuyangi Takes Over: 04182005/05302005     271
Goodbyes: 05302005     276
Knocking the Stone: 11142005/12142005     278
Reflections from the Verandah: 01012007     287
Coda: Esoteric Language     309
Dramatis Personae     391
Notes     395
Bibliography     439
Acknowledgments     449
Illustration Credits     451
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